Clinical trials can be helpful in the research and development of new treatments or medications to treat diseases such as Alzheimer's. Participating in an Alzheimer’s clinical trial can be rewarding and may even be helpful to someone seeking new treatments. But before you sign up, it's important you get accurate information about clinical trials. In this article, we'll define clinical trials, discuss who can participate and dispel some myths behind them to help you decide if it's right for you and your loved one.
What Are Clinical Trials?
Clinical trials aim to assess new interventions or medications to see how effective they are at preventing, treating, or detecting a particular disease. Researchers run clinical trials in phases to gradually determine if a new medication or intervention is useful. They also build evidence to determine if the potential benefits outweigh the side-effects and risks.
Who Can Participate in Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials?
Researchers need participants of all different races, ethnicities, sexes, ages, and backgrounds to participate in Alzheimer’s studies. The more diverse the participant body, the more meaningful results can be for the whole population.
Any person - those with mild neurodegeneration, those experiencing Alzheimer's disease or dementia, those with a family history of Alzheimer's, and healthy volunteers with no family history of cognitive impairment - can (and hopefully will) participate in Alzheimer's studies and clinical trials. Having healthy volunteers in a study helps scientists see how the brain ages in a healthy way versus how the brain ages when cognitive decline is present.
Myths & Facts About Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials
- Myth: Clinical trials are inherently dangerous.
- Fact: Clinical trials always involve some level of risk because they're experimental. There are many legal and ethical standards and built-in safeguards that clinical trials must adhere to. However, participants need to know that side effects may range from unpleasant to potentially life-threatening. They must also be aware that they have the option to pull out of the trial at any time.
- Myth: Doctors will always inform patients of any clinical trials they’re eligible for.
- Fact: There are dozens of clinical trials currently being conducted (both virtually and across the country), and not all physicians are aware of them. For the most updated information about current studies, please visit TrialMatch.
- Myth: The quality of care participants receive in a clinical trial could be better than the quality of care from their doctor.
- Fact: Research indicates that individuals who are impacted by Alzheimer's and involved in clinical trials do somewhat better than people in a similar stage of their disease who are not enrolled, whether or not the treatment is proven effective. Data points to the fact that participants in clinical trials are provided with high-quality care. Participants are always allowed to talk with research staff and should continue to care with their physicians.
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